Another month, another legend gone.
At the risk of being misunderstood, I didn't feel much when I heard that Muhammad Ali had passed. Not because I wasn't a fan. How can one not be? I grew up watching him, entranced by his megawatt personality, loving that famous interview by Michael Parkinson, heartbroken along with millions when the news broke that he was incurably 'punch drunk'. But honestly? Apart from the fact that he was elderly and of course suffering from a degenerative disease, meaning his death would surely be imminent, there is a bigger reason for my calm reaction towards his death. Here I stand, half way through 2016 and frankly, there have been so many deaths of icons this year, I just can't be shocked anymore. In fact, this paragraph is an addition to something I'd already written about all these deaths. Frankly, I wrote the original article thinking Who's next? knowing I'd likely be adding to it soon after. And so it is...Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali, the Greatest has left the ring since I wrote that first piece.
During a recent school holiday, I'd been having one of those leisurely days with the kids where we listened to music, played and made plans to do something in the glorious sunshine. Then, ever the 24/7 blogger, I checked my social media and noticed a friend had shared an iconic TV sketch from my childhood: the Two Ronnies Fork Handles and a sad face. No words. Just that emoji. And I knew... Musical M said 'Mummy what's wrong?' upon hearing my pained 'Oh No'. Mid flipping pancakes and getting arts and crafts supplies out, it had turned into the saddest of days.
The wave of emotion that ran through me was not unlike the one I'd experienced over the death of a close family friend years ago.
He was the kindest gentlest of men for whom I had great respect. I always felt Ronnie Corbett was like him. The Two Ronnies were part of the fabric of my family's Saturday nights, a staple fixture on TV in those days. Years later, here I was, sitting down to show my kids the Fork Handles sketch, that I had first watched when I was younger than my own kids are now. I hope Mr C was somewhere above us watching my kids howl with laughter watching him and Mr B. Just think, forty years after that sketch was filmed, a new generation is enjoying it.
A few days later, after the school pickup, we went to our local beach café, sipped drinks, played ball on the sand and enjoyed the sight and sound of the teal sea and white foamy waves crashing against the rocks. Once home, I checked my computer before starting dinner. I stared in disbelief at the BBC 'breaking news' headline about the death of Victoria Wood, again an icon of British comedy. Once again the kids watched my face fall, my beach buzz replaced by shock and glassy eyes as I tried to explain the magnitude of this further loss. Wood is the first stand up comedienne I remember watching. I admired this ridiculously funny intelligent woman hurling out jokes at 60mph in a heavily male-dominated profession. She was a role model for so many women wanting to make their way in the entertainment industry and was quite simply larger than life.
The next day, we went to the beach again. After another lovely afternoon, the same thing: we went home, I checked my social media and again BBC News greeted me, this time announcing the death of Prince. It was like a sick joke; two days in a row, the exact same scenario. I genuinely thought it was a hoax. I resolved not to take the kids to the beach the next day. Sorry, writing this is a sad affair and I need some light relief so please excuse the dark humour. It's just that the numerous deaths this year of so many greats is just too much. David Bowie the impact of whose death I also wrote about, Terry Wogan (not an international megastar but a beloved highly respected icon of British entertainment), Alan Rickman, a humble non celebrity actor...the list goes on.
I suppose their passing is impacting my generation in much the same way the deaths of TV/film greats hit our parents' generation.
And for the same reasons: Wayne, McQueen, Burton, Sellers, Morecambe, Cooper etc were the idols from their childhood...just like Corbett, Wood, Prince etc are the people from my childhood/youth. My parents must have become so much more aware of their own mortality, just like my generation is now. Each time another death is reported, it's like a piece of our childhood goes with it. The childhood where we welcomed these people into our lives via the big and small screen. They formed the backdrop to our lives: favourite films, TV sketches and songs...these form part of our memory bank as we grow up.
I in fact met Terry Wogan when I was just seven. He was promoting a product at one of the wholesalers where my parents used to buy the stock for their supermarket. I excitedly posed for a photo with him; he asked me to do my best open smile at which point I promptly burst into tears because I had just recently lost a tooth and looked like Goofy. I forgave him (!) and went on to watch him over the years loving his easy warm broadcasting manner.
And then there is Prince, the Artist Formerly Known As, His Royal Purpleness.
So many memories: Being addicted to Take Me With You, dancing to Kiss in a French club, hearing 1999 over and over December 31st 1998, being mesmerised by When Doves Cry, cracking up at a Radio 1 DJ's hilarious version of Purple Rain, doing the walk of shame down Camden Road with Love Sexy on my walkman and best of all: strutting round my tiny Paris apartment with my sisters pouting and posing to the stonking Cream. Legend.
Legends, all of them. From Bowie to Rickman to Wogan to Corbett to Wood to Prince to Ali and all the ones in between.
And if any of you legends are looking down and listening, may I just say I had not realised the extent to which you inspired me...until you were gone. The famous films that have a place in my heart, the cherished songs that are the soundtrack to my life, the sports events that provided edge of the seat drama, the TV shows that kept me company when I wasn't allowed to go out with my teenage friends, the comedians that nearly gave me a broken rib from laughing... I am so grateful to you for all of it.
I just have one small request.
If I ever join you where ever you are, please could you arrange for a front row seat? I intend to carry on watching and listening to you forever.
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